This is Halloween!
I am the "who" when you call, "Who's there?"
I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright
This is Halloween, this is Halloween
from the Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman's lyrics
I love Halloween. I am of a certain (pre-middle) age and have fond recollections of childhood before the invention of play-dates, so I can empathise with Amy's great rant about the nerfing of Halloween. I can empathise, but I can't quite sing in her choir because I never experienced a free-wheeling, unchaperoned trick-or-treating extravaganza.
All of my candy-grabbing was done under the watchful eye of my mother, who worked as an emergency room nurse before I was born. Although her cautionary tales and rules allowed me to get to adulthood with all my fingers and toes and both eyes intact, I missed out on fun childhood activities like jumping off garage roofs, unescorted romps through the woods at the bottom of the street, and setting off firecrackers. (To be fair, I also never had to mow the lawn, but that's about the only fringe benefit I can think of.)
Even though my Halloween was supervised and the candy had to be thoroughly parentally examined before we could eat it, I still enjoyed Halloween. I loved the ritual of it. The costume selection. The trip to Mapleside to get pumpkins. The pumpkin carving (during which I tried to gross out my little brothers by squezing pumpkin guts through my fingers). The house on my grandmother's street where the woman made us sing for our candy.
It's the rituals that I've carried with me and have tried to replicate to some degree. Our first few Halloweens in Chicago were not observed. Then, in 2001, I decided I wanted an outing to a pumpkin farm. And so our yearly pilgrimage to Honey Hill Orchard was born. I selected it because it was the only pick-your-own-pumpkin patch in Northeastern Illinois, and it offered hay rides and a petting zoo.
Without a doubt, Halloweens when we owned our house deep in the heart of Republican DuPage County were the best. Not only did I get to participate in the pumpkin collecting and carving ritual that I'd grown to love, I also got to hand out candy. I loved seeing all the kids and I can't remember a single uncostumed one among them.
In Ireland, Halloween is a little bit different. I can't speak yet about what it's like in the Middle of Nowhere (they had a kid's party in the GAA hall last weekend), in Dublin, Halloween is loud and a little scary. Practically every neighbourhood green hosts a raging bonfire and it seems that everyone and his mother sets off firecrackers. All night long. I didn't see many trick-or-treaters when we lived in Dublin and not a single one ever came to our door. (Although we didn't really live in an area that had many kids in it.)
I miss the trips to Honey Hill Orchard so much. We're still carving pumpkins, but we just buy them in the grocery store. Plus, the pumpkins over here are disappointingly small because it just doesn't get hot enough to grow them properly. This year was particularly bad because the summer was so rainy, a lot of pumpkins didn't fully ripen. The selection in the Macroom Dunnes was so poor that I convinced Peter to take me to the Tesco in Killarney. (Which is not even remotely like Honey Hill.)
On the night we bought the pumpkins, we watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" to get in the Halloween mood. I think that film will become an integral part of our new Halloween ritual. (I also think I am going to grow my own damn pumpkins next year.) Last Monday, we carved the pumpkins and we've been lighting them each evening for a few hours. I don't know if anyone can actually see them, but for me, the journey of the pumpkin is more exciting than the destination.
Peter's Pumpkin - stencil from Zombie Pumpkins
My Decent Pumpkin - stencil also from Zombie Pumpkins
My Crap-Yes-An-Adult-Did-That-Not-A-Child Pumpkin - stencil (which looked much better on paper) from The Pumpkin Lady
PS - The first time Toby saw the pumpkins, it was outside, after dark and the candles inside were lit. His hackles went up and he had some stern words for the intruders, until he'd had enough time to thoroughly check them out. It was quite funny. I didn't expect that sort of reaction.